Graphene growth of mono-, bi- and tri-layers on Ni(111) through surface segregation was observed in situ by low energy electron microscopy. The carbon segregation was controlled by adjusting substrate temperature from 1200 K to 1050 K. After the completion of the first layer at 1125 K, the second layer grew at the interface between the first-layer and the substrate at 1050 K. The third layer also started to grow at the same temperature, 1050 K. All the layers exhibited a 1 × 1 atomic structure. The edges of the first-layer islands were straight lines, reflecting the hexagonal atomic structure. On the other hand, the shapes of the second-layer islands were dendritic. The edges of the third-layer islands were again straight lines similar to those of the first-layer islands. The phenomena presumably originate from the changes of interfacial-bond strength of the graphene to Ni substrate depending on the graphene thickness. No nucleation site of graphene layers was directly observed. All the layers expanded out of the field of view and covered the surface. The number of nucleation sites is extremely small on Ni(111) surface. This finding might open the way to grow the high quality, single-domain graphene crystals.
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